Dragon Flower had stumbled into a nightmare. Getting trapped onboard a Consortium warship? Okay, that had been her own fault. Viviane, her [Inspiration] and far more sensible inner voice, had raised the possibility that joining a new raid that took them up against completely unknown foes was not, perhaps, the safest of plays.
Despite knowing that, the two of them had agreed to take the chance though. The world needed them and while it wasn’t the first time that had been true for Dragon Flower, the prospect had excited Viviane and stripped away enough of her natural hesitation to land the two of them in the middle of a catastrophe.
“I’m trying to raise any of the others and I’m getting nothing,” Viviane said.
They weren’t exactly the same person – more like echoes of each other. Dream Flower could see how she might have grown up to become Viviane if her world was filled with only humans and lacked magic and didn’t have things waiting to eat you around every damn corner. That hadn’t been the case though and once the [World Shift] threw them together, they’d found that their different skill sets were each valuable in surprising ways.
Viviane, among other things, was a natural organizer. She’d taken up a spot in the back of Dream Flower’s head to act as a kind of 2nd pair of eyes and communication specialist. Dream Flower’s party hadn’t minded the commentary Viviane had provided, but it also hadn’t saved them.
They’d teleported up from Penswell’s encampment at the observatory as a full team of eight only to have half their number blasted into the vacuum of space the instant they arrived.
In a sense those had been the lucky ones. They’d died, which for an [Adventurer] wasn’t an unusual or unexpected thing and had raced back to the observatory’s [Heart Fire] faster than lightning, their ghosts pulled back home by the force of their world’s mystic gravity well.
The four who remained had not fared as well.
Some of Penswell’s other teams had teleported to ships with defense forces in place that were made of up the sort of troops the Consortium had dispatched against the [Fallen Kingdoms] in their first invasion. Viviane had relayed reports of parties running up against platoons of [Metal Mechanoids] and [Clothworks] in addition to regular forces outfitted with all sort of specialized weapons.
Those teams had been the lucky ones.
Dream Flower and her three remaining teammates had been swarmed by the sort of acid spewing tentacle horrors that show up when the absent gods decide that the kids gloves are off and its time to inflict a truly miserable day on someone.
Again though, Dream Flower was an [Adventurer], ridiculous and supremely unpleasant enemies were a standard part of any day that ended in ‘y’.
Even the part where, instead of killing them, like reasonable and civilized opponents would, the Consortium’s forces had put Dream Flower’s team into vats of sweet smelling tar that, apparently, also had an extremely powerful narcotic effect.
Dream Flower could deal with being killed. She’d lost count of the number of ghost runs she’d done so long ago that the total had be completely meaningless.
She’d even been captured more often than she could remembered, though the general rule there was that the capture mechanism would place the [Adventurers] in some sort of cage or prison where their captors could come to taunt and torment them. It was always annoying when it happened but there was at least a logic to it. Living [Adventurers] had all sorts of uses, from power batteries, to mind controlled slaves, to simple target practice and unwilling ‘most dangerous game’ participants.
Being dipped into knock out tar though? That was just rude.
As the danger klaxon blared loud enough to blow out her hearing, Dream Flower wondered if someone, or perhaps something, else had agreed with her on that.
She’d woken from the tar bath covered in something she hoped was salt water. It probably wasn’t. Salt water didn’t wash off tar as cleanly as whatever the solution had been, but, since it hadn’t also dissolved her skin and bones, Dream Flower was filing it under salt water and steadfastly refusing to think about it any further.
Especially since there were so many other, much more terrifying, things to think about.
“Any guess why that [Clothwork] is ripping itself apart?” she asked Viviane.
They shared a brain but Viviane had brought a separate lifetime of information with her when she moved it and she had her own thoughts and observations.
“It looks like its trying to get at something inside itself,” Viviane said, her voice urging Dream Flower to back away but not quickly enough to attract the self-destructing rag dolls attention.
The corridor they were was a mess of exposed pipes and wiring. From the mini-map that Dream Flower’s inherent magics were able to conjure for her, it looked like she was in the center of the ship her party had teleported onto, or at least one with the same layout and overall size. That didn’t provide her with many options on where to go to get away from the thing in front of her, and even worse, the screams from the rest of the ship were clearly not the sort of thing she wanted to run towards for any reason.
“We need to find the others and then get out of her, even if it means ghost running it,” Dream Flower said, her loyalty to her party feeling sorely tested by the sense that what was happening around her was wrong in a fundamental sense.
Things screamed. It was what things did. But they weren’t supposed to scream like that.
“There’s a space about twenty feet behind us and around the next corner that could be a lab,” Viviane said. “Maybe they got taken there?”
“It’s a place to start,” Dream Flower said and began layering buffs onto herself.
Her captors hadn’t taken her gear, probably because it was all [Soul Bound] but even with her armor and the full capabilities of a level capped [Monk], Dream Flower didn’t feel particularly safe.
She’d been ready for battle and fully buffed with not only her own abilities but also the enhancements her party members could provide and they’d still overwhelmed her in seconds.
And now she was alone.
Moving down the hallway with all the grace her [Dwarven] feet could muster, Dream Flower peered around the corner to find that what had once been a lab space had become an abattoir.
“What killed them all?” Viviane asked.
From the remains one answer seemed to suggest itself.
“They did. Each other. Themselves. I know I should feel relieved that our enemies apparently decided out of the blue to do our work for us, but this isn’t right,” Dream Flower said.
“Wrong…it’s, it’s, it’s…”
Dream Flower moved on instinct, sending a [Solar Barrage] and a [Dragon Wave] at the thing that had spoken an inch from her ear as she [Light Stepped] out of melee range.
The attacks hit the creature, which looked like it had once upon a long time ago been human, and blasted it to dust.
They did the same thing to wall, the next wall, and the inner hull beyond that. The rush of air cut off as fast as it began thanks to the inner hull regrowing the vaporize section almost instantly.
“That was a [Disjoined],” Viviane said. “They’re not supposed to be here.”
“Not not not…” It was the same creature.
Dream Flower held back her instinctive attacks, but kept her distance too.
The thing had reformed in reverse, bits of ash swirling back into together and regaining solidity as though time had simply shifted direction for a few seconds.
“What is it doing?” Viviane asked.
It was writhing. In agony. Dream Flower had seen fiends burn in a sea of holy water. She’d seen immortal constructs melt in eternal fire. This thing was suffering beyond any boundary of sanity. It shouldn’t have been able to function at all, but it was still capable of speech.
“Hungry. Hungry. Release. Hungry!”
“Kill it again,” Viviane said.
“I don’t think that’s going to help,” Dream Flower said.
“I know. I’m looking for something,” Viviane said.
That was good enough for Dream Flower so she unleashed a single [Solar Bolt] to incinerate the creature without destroying quite so much of ship.
Once again it was blasted to ash and once again it reformed a moment later.
“It’s shadow never changed,” Viviane said. “There’s something else in it. Something that’s blocking light even if we can’t see it directly.”
“That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
“We’re conjoined minds from different world on an alien space ship with troops capable of conquering a planet full of demigods and that spaceship is being overrun by something that’s making that the aliens we know rip their own guts out. I think we drop kicked ‘things that make sense’ into a volcano a long time ago.”
The creature chose that moment to lunge at Dream Flower.
She moved without thought, invoking [Five Fold Shadows] and [Step out of Time] to evade not only the creatures attacks but the weird ripple that pulsed around it.
She blasted it again too, for good measure, but it reformed before it had even finished exploding.
Viviane kept silent for what followed because Dream Flower wasn’t in a position to hold a conversation.
With each time it was destroyed, the creature seemed to be learning, the writhing agony turning to unpredictable lashing attacks.
Dream Flower skipped back to buy room and slammed into a wall that hadn’t been there a second earlier.
Or not a wall.
A [Metal Mechanoid].
One of the Consortium’s heavy defense units.
It’s head was on backwards.
Dream Flower obliterated it with a two hands that glowed with the brilliance of the sun.
And the first monster slipped past her guard.
Sadly it didn’t kill her.
The grip around her throat wasn’t pleasant though.
“Can’t….hungry…can’t!” it screamed and then something inside the creature swallowed the scream and spoke through gritted teeth. “Loyalty spell. It’s eating us through the loyalty spells. Break it. Please.”
With a snarl, whatever within the former human that had wrested control from the madness of the creature was lost once more in the surging chaos. The creatures flesh turned an unnatural mauve and burst outward into acid gushing phalanges and bone riddled tentacles.
“[Solar Storm]!” Dream Flower shouted and transformed into a miniature sun.
Fire and radiation burned the creatures around her to dust and continued burning them as they reformed.
Under her feet, the deck plates began to soften and melt as the walls and ceiling followed suit.
“We’re going to breech the hull if we keep this up,” Viviane said, though there was no sense that doing so would be unwelcome.
“I know. Can we find the others before then do you think?” Dream Flower asked.
“No. Even if they’re on this level, I don’t think we can search places fast enough to find them. And if we lucked into where they were being kept, we’d incinerate them the moment we got close.”
“That may not be a bad thing,” Dream Floweer said. “If they’re in stasis like we were a good incineration would pop them out into the ghost world and we could get home.”
“What about the things here?” Viviane asked. “I know they’re out enemy but I think whatever’s doing that to them might be even worse than they are.”
“I normally like waiting to stick my nose into a fight between two possible hostile forces, but in this case I’ve got to agree with you. The Consortium’s only going to kill us. I have no idea what that other thing was trying to do and I have no desire to let it try again.”
“Let’s do it then. Nuke this place in orbit.”
“[Diamond Soul: Heaven’s Final Fist],” Dream Flower said.
She hadn’t known the blast would hit the engine.
She didn’t expect it to catalyze the primary reaction agents.
She couldn’t have guessed that the fireball would be visible from the ground in the [Fallen Kingdoms].
But it was still cool to punch a spaceship out of the sky.